As one brought up in a democracy, first in newly independent India, then my coming to live in Britain in the early sixties, where I have remained since, I can safely say I have a lived experience. To me, democracy has simply meant freedom of choice to think, say, and do whatever I felt was right, which happily coincided with my non-infringement of others democratic rights.
Respecting democratic laws does not remove the classical divide between the well-off and not so well off. The fulfilling democratic principle realised is that everyone enjoys equal opportunity and rights. Social class distinction thus does not normally interfere with the freedom of the poor. Living a fulfilled life in a democracy, therefore, is not necessarily to attain outstanding success and wealth, but in knowing it is, at all levels, a fair system. Each member of society personally experiences this. The rich, for example, are not to be envied, because with greater wealth and assets comes greater responsibility the poor are relieved off. However, there are those who would take things by unfair means, even if they feel justified to themselves for doing so. In a democracy, they break the law that is for the common good, defining what is fair, and are punished to restore the sense of fairness in the majority who abide by the rules.
Experience of a democracy is a personal one; but is at once a collective experience. When there is corruption in high places, in parliament, politics or finance, the public is made aware, and it demands this is addressed, where each member of the democracy collectively experiences the vindication of fairness.
This wonderful spirit of democracy is what distinguishes it from any other form of government, one of fairness, breach of which is manifested in strikes, protests, and even riots by the people. All is restored in a common experience of fairness, individual, yet collective.
This accounts for the fact that even when democratic societies appear to be in meltdown, as in the current western financial crisis, it is the fairness of resolution of the problems, even the effort of doing so, that continues to determine its fulfilment factor, and hope is restored collectively. In the fervour of the Arab spring, the principle of fairness is an individual yet a collective experience of democracy in the majority of people.
For this reason, the USA and Britain as bastions of democracy, along with all democratic nations, have the common principle of fairness that is, or must be, their overriding concern in correcting their internal failures, as, for example, caused by the deregulated financial institutions; also, in resolving international crises, as in the war against terror, and the protection of civilians in Libya, enabling the overthrow of a tyranny by its people. The principle of democracy is fairness as a collective experience, fulfilling, as we realise today, the people of all nations.